russell-wilson-run2

Passing is something that won’t be pretty tonight. It either won’t be attempted much (Seahawks), or it won’t be successful almost at all (Cardinals).

But there will still be plenty of fantasy digits available, starting with running machine/man/half human Russell Wilson.

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

1. Will Russell Wilson keep on runnin’ like it’s his job?

Yeah, I know. It sort of is his job, just not his only job.

So far through six games of his sophomore season, Wilson is doing the whole scrambling quarterback thing a little backwards. You see, it makes sense for a rookie quarterback who has some wheels to run a lot, because he’s still adjusting to the speed of the professional game. His running ability then functions as a safety net of sorts, because if his first read isn’t open and then suddenly a pass rush is upon him, the mobile quarterback can squirt loose and salvage a play, and often much more. But although Wilson did plenty of that in his rookie year, his total rushing attempts was pretty typical. He finished with 94 official carries, which is plenty, but still a fair distance behind Robert Griffin III’s 120 regular-season attempts in 2012 (even with a knee that eventually exploded).

Now Wilson is on pace to eclipse those marks easily.

With 50 attempts over the first six weeks, Wilson currently has himself on pace to reach 133 attempts overall. For even greater perspective, Michael Vick holds the single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback (his 1,039 yards in 2005), and yet that year he had fewer rushing attempts than Wilson’s pace (123). In fact, even in his prime during his Atlanta days Vick didn’t exceed 130 runs, topping out at that 2005 total.

Could Wilson fall off that pace? Yes, that’s why it’s a pace, and the presence of Percy Harvin soon enough will surely lead to Wilson scaling back his running a bit. But six games isn’t a small sample size in an NFL season, and therefore right now until Harvin returns, we’re often seeing that one-read quarterback who didn’t surface last year when it made more sense. Even if we include Seattle’s two playoff games, Wilson only had one double-digit carry week in 2012. This year he’s already recorded four, and he’s attempted the second fewest passes of any starting quarterback who hasn’t missed time due to injury (158).

This isn’t a bad thing, of course. It just sort of…is, and Wilson’s fantasy owners should continue to enjoy his increased running while it lasts. So, for about another week.

2. Will Carson Palmer complete a single pass?

Alright, we’ll give him at least one, and maybe four. But that’s it.

Palmer is still an upgrade over the carousel of calamity the Cardinals trotted out at quarterback last year, but that’s saying far more about John Skelton and Ryan Lindley (never forget). Palmer is still who he’s always been: a nearly stationary thrower who makes for a fine target to tee off on when he’s not given plenty of time in the pocket. Now, a quarterback who’s completing only 59.3 percent of his passes will attempt to throw successfully against the league’s second-ranked pass defense which is allowing completions just 56.6 percent of the time. Those two numbers don’t jive, and neither does the Seahawks’ 65.1 opposing passer rating (second), nine interceptions (one behind the league leaders), and 6.3 yards allowed per pass attempt (tied for third).

But oh, there are more doomed numbers associated with the Cardinals’ passing game (or a lack thereof) tonight, which leads us to question No. 3…

3. Can Larry Fitzgerald escape from Richard Sherman’s death grip?

Fitzgerald’s hamstring injury that had him limited in practice all week and nearly scratched in Week 6 clearly isn’t helping matters here. He’s playing, but at less than full health.

Hmmm, let’s see how other fully functioning receivers have fared so far this season against Sherman:

  • Steve Smith: six receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown
  • Anquan Boldin: one reception for seven yards
  • Andre Johnson: nine receptions for 112 yards
  • T.Y. Hilton: five receptions for 140 yards
  • Kendall Wright: five receptions for 69 yards

We see hope there, and we don’t. The exceptions are Hilton and Johnson, and the former is a shifty slot receiver, while the latter more closely resembles Fitzgerald with his combination of height and speed. But although he plays outside, Steve Smith’s smaller stature mirrors Hilton (they’re both 5’9″), and only a touchdown saved his day. Meanwhile, Sherman matched Boldin’s physicality with ease, and that’s an area a healthy Fitzgerald also dabbles in. Boldin was held to only four targets a week after seeing 17 looks that he turned into 208 yards in the 49ers’ season opener.

So there would be hope for FItzgerald if he was healthy. As it stands, we’re waiting on WR3 numbers at best.

Decisions, decisions

Standard preamble/dire warning: in the end it’s all the same, but sit and start decisions on Thursday night just feel more pressing and possibly painful, because if you make a poor call one roster spot has already been burned long before Sunday. That sucks (#analysis).

No-brainers: Fitzgerald and Marshawn Lynch are the only true, no doubt starters tonight. You’re not benching Wilson given the aforementioned ramblin’ running habit he’s formed and the value that brings. But be aware that you’re dealing with an underrated Cardinals defense which held Colin Kaepernick to only 18 rushing yards last week.

Tweeners: Go ahead and flex Michael Floyd, hoping that Fitzgerald drawing Sherman’s attention leads to wonderful things during the few times Palmer has an opportunity to look deep, though Brandon Browner is far from inviting. Andre Ellington has been a tempting flex play in deep leagues lately too with his receiving ability out of the backfield (especially in PPR leagues), but tonight that ends because the Seahawks are giving up the fourth fewest receiving yards per game to running backs.

Stay away: Palmer, unless you truly feel like being disgusted with your life. Also, given how little Wilson passes and the general heavy running lean of the Seahawks’ offense, starting any ‘Hawks wide receiver usually ends poorly. That changes upon Harvin’s return, but stay away for now. Ditto for Rashard Mendenhall, as he’s averaging only 3.3 yards per carry.